Friday, December 22, 2006

a reflection on today's Lectionary readings

[Based on 1 Samuel 1:24-28 and Luke 1:46-56]

Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian theologian and Dominican priest, coined the phrase the Church's "preferential option for the poor," a phrase many of us may have previously heard. Initially, the Church repudiated this concept, but then later the Church went back to it, refined it, and is now a cornerstone of the Church's social teaching. The phrase expresses our primary concern as Church for the plight of the poor, the marginalized, those without a voice in society. It expresses the belief that what the Church is all about and who the Church serves is first and foremost the poor in our midst: and that all our liturgies, our theologizing, our prayers, our mission are oriented towards the service of the least among us.

I had the chance to hear Ronald Rolheiser in person last month speaking at a nearby seminary here in the Bay Area, and he said something along these same lines. He said that when Christ returns his question to each of us will not be, "well, how was your prayer life, how was your theology, is it orthodox? how were your devotions, your liturgies at Church." No, not these questions. Rather his first and perhaps only question to us is, "How was the poor in your midst, how was the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the immigrant in your midst, how did you help them?"

These words of Mary from the Gospel, this song of Mary, has been called the song of the poor: "he has lifted up the lowly, the has filled the hungry with good things." It has also been called the song and prayer of the Church---our song and prayer---expressing our preference in praying and in working for the poor among us: the materially as well as the spiritually poor, the orphan, the widow, the stranger, the newcomer in our midst, the undocumented alien, the unborn, those spending their final years alone, with no family or friends.

This song of Mary, our song, not only reminds us to pray and work on behalf of the least among us, but also brings us hope---that the child who was born almost 2000 years ago in a manger will come again to set things right and bring lasting justice and peace on this earth. And because of this we join Mary in proclaiming, "My soul rejoices in God our Savior."

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